The French military doesn’t get a lot of love these days; their crushing defeat and capitulation in 1940 still colors the way the world sees the armed forces of France. It’s a completely undeserved reputation, however. The French are much better at fighting wars than you might think.
One part of this is the French Foreign Legion and its cadre of criminals, strongmen, war junkies, and other badasses who decided to get a clean slate by joining the Legion. In World War II, the Legion was just a capable as it is today — and they capitulated to no one. In 1942, they were joined by a group of Jewish soldiers who decided they had enough of the anti-Semitism in Europe.
At a small oasis in Libya, guarding an old Turkish fort, the Free French Foreign Legion begin to reinforce their position. The fort, called Bir Hakeim, was a sort of last stand for the Allies. If Field Marshal Erwin Rommel could punch his army through the French position, he could take the vital port city of Tobruk. Near the end of the Legionnaires’ lines was a place called Bir-el Hamat.
This is where the Jewish fighters of WWII would make their presence felt.
They were a small group of 400 minelayers sent by the British and led by Maj. Félix Liebmann to reinforce the French position. They had no heavy weapons and were generally poorly armed and equipped. Rommel’s men targeted the Jewish position as the weakest point and sent a truce flag over to demand the Jewish surrender. When they refused, the Nazis hit the Jewish defenders with everything they had.
Unable to radio the French a few miles up the road, the Jewish fighters held their position using molotov cocktails on the tanks that didn’t get destroyed in the minefield. For eight days — low on water, ammunition, and supplies — the Jewish troops withstood relentless, constant bombardment and fought the Afrika Korps to a standstill.
On the last day, the French and Jewish forces got the word to retreat. They held off the Nazis long enough for the British 8th Army to retreat — and they did, in the middle of the night. Three-fourths of the unit were killed or wounded at Bir-el Hamat and they marched 60 some miles all the way to Gasr el-Abid.
When they arrived, they folded up their flag, a gold Star of David on a blue and white striped background — a precursor to the modern-day state of Israel’s flag. Observing the men folding their colors, French Foreign Legion commander General Marie-Pierre Koenig demanded why they stopped flying their flag. Under the British, Maj. Liebmann explained, they were not allowed to fly their own colors.
Koenig had the flag attached to his jeep, next to the Free French flag, at equal stature.
The British 8th Army was able to to defeat the Afrika Korps at el-Alamein the very next month, in a pivotal battle that kept the Axis from advancing into Egypt and capturing the Suez Canal. By 1944, the Jewish Brigade (as they came to be called) was formed to take the fight to the Nazis in Italy.
Vito Bertoldo almost didn’t make it into the Army. A former coal miner, he was exempt from the World War II draft due to his bad eyesight. Approved for limited duty after enlisting, he had to get special permission to join the infantry. It’s a good thing he did.
In December 1944, Germany launched Operation Northwind, what would become its last offensive in Western Europe. It was designed to destroy the U.S. 7th Army, whose supply lines were stretched after the Battle of the Bulge. That offensive would meet some major resistance in Hatten, France, specifically at the hands of Vito Bertoldo.
Bertoldo was assigned to protect the movement of a vital command post during a German attack. It was in good hands. As German infantry and armor advanced and the American lines began to crumble, Bertoldo moved outside of the building that housed the command post and set up a machine gun in the street.
For 12 hours, he held the entire street in full view of the advancing German infantry and tanks. Under fire from the tanks’ 88mm guns and small arms, he fought on, eventually moving back into the building. Once inside, he set his gun up on a table and fired through a window, blasting an entire group of German infantry.
As armored personnel carriers and more tanks approached, he waited for them to dismount before mowing them all down, even taking a tank shell in his position for his trouble. He simply got back up and got back to work. When the command post got a new position, he volunteered to stay behind and cover its withdrawal, staying in the building all night.
In the morning, he moved into another building and started another daylong defense, fighting off self-propelled howitzers, infantrymen, and tanks. He was hit by another 88mm round but survived. Before the Germans could finish him off, an American bazooka took out the vehicle.
Bertoldo went back to his gun, yet again, mowing down Germans as they tried to retreat. The command post was evacuated once more, this time under cover of darkness. But the Germans tried to assault the building before the evacuation could begin. This time, Bertoldo lobbed white phosphorous grenades into the massed enemy infantrymen until they broke and withdrew from the attack.
Once more a German tank round hit the room where Bertoldo was holed up, knocking him to the ground in a daze from 50 yards away. The only difference was this time, Bertoldo’s machine gun was destroyed. So he picked up his rifle and began to singlehandedly cover the movement of the command post to its new location.
This army of one secured his unit’s command post and all its movement against superior forces for a full two days without rest or relief, killing at least 40 Germans and holding back an entire enemy advance.
In the end, it wasn’t a Nazi bullet or tank round that would get Vito Bertoldo. He served through the entire war and died of cancer in 1966.
When thinking about 18th and 19th century weaponry, the standard perception is of cumbersome muskets loaded standing up and only the skilled and lucky getting off as many as three rounds in a minute. But an innovative air-powered semi-automatic rifle developed by an Austrian watchmaker in 1779 or 1780 served several armies for decades, and even played a role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Bartholomaus Girandoni, an watchmaker from the Austrian Empire province of Tyrol, had developed an innovative form of firearm, especially for the technological limitations of the time. A pressurized container of air, in the form of a removable stock, would propel a .46 calibre musket ball at speeds comparable to modern day handguns. A tube magazine, typically holding more than 20 rounds, fed through a manual switch.
The weapon was pointed upward and a switch was pressed to reload. Considering that standard muskets at the time required the operator to be standing while reloading, this let soldiers keep low to the ground, presenting a much smaller target and allowing them to stay under cover. It was comparable in range, accuracy, and penetration to a standard musket.
A soldier armed with the rifle typically carried three air tanks and a hundred lead shot in a special leather case.The air canister was good for perhaps 30-40 effective shots, with range and accuracy dropping as the pressure went down. An additional benefit was that it was much quieter than gunpowder based weapons.
A semi-automatic weapon of this level of effectiveness was basically unknown, and the Austrian Army eagerly adopted the design. It saw extensive action in the Napoleonic Wars, and was used for over 30 years.
Thomas Jefferson, who always had a keen interest in inventive new technology, purchased several of the rifles. One of them was carried by the legendary Lewis and Clark expedition, whom demonstrated the rifle to American Indian tribes they met along the way. The Indians were impressed with the weapon’s firepower and it’s much quieter report than a standard musket.
But the weapon had a number of disadvantages. Recharging a canister could take over 1,500 cranks from a small hand pump, though larger horse drawn recharge stations were often used. The weapon was complex and easily damaged, and the leather seals connecting the tank to the gun had to be kept wet in order to prevent leaks. Compared to the relative simplicity of regular muskets, it required a lot of training to maintain and suffered from serious reliability issues.
The weapon was simply too complex for the technology at the time, and in mass production suffered from too many defects and expense. The conscript armies of the period needed simple weapons that could be built and maintained anywhere, and it was never widely adopted by other European armies.
Though it was phased out by 1815, the weapon’s technology was unique, and an infantry weapon of similar capabilities in sustained rapid fire were not seen again for 50 years. In the end, it’s real flaw is that it was ahead of it’s time.
Britain Lockhart, the teenage treasure hunter and American history preserver behind the YouTube channel “Depths of History,” recently made his most important and dangerous discovery to date — a live 20-pound Civil War-era Parrot artillery shell.
The teenager found it while scanning for bullets and canister shots left behind by Union and Confederate soldiers in the Tennessee countryside. He nearly missed his discovery because he’d dug so deep that he wanted to quit.
“I got about 20 inches, and I was like, I gotta give this hole a break,” Lockhart said in his video. “I went over there and dug up one more bullet, and I was like, okay we can come back to it.”
“So I removed a rock, then we went into another field and started hunting, and I came back to it and ya’ll can’t even believe this,” the excited teen added. “I think I have a whole shell down in the hole.”
Lockhart was right; the shell was 3 feet under the earth. He pulled the entire live round to gasps of astonishment from onlookers off camera. “That’s the biggest find out here,” said an off-camera voice.
Worried that the round could explode, Lockhart took it to expert Steve Phillips to defuse and preserve the shell. Phillips is a relics legend who has defused over 2,000 cannon balls, according to Lockhart.
“People think that if they drill one under water, it can’t blow up,” said Phillips. “That’s not true, people have been blown up under water while drilling them with their hand.”
While cautiously preparing the shell to drill, Pillips wisely summed up his experience, “you just have to think it might blow up.”
This YouTube video shows how Britain Lockhart finds, defuses, and preserves a Civil War-era artillery shell.
U.S. Coast Guard medics have stopped using military contractors who intentionally injure sedated animals so that medics can practice treating combat wounds.
Spokeswoman Lisa Novak said in a phone interview on April 27 that the practice was suspended in January. A working group will decide if the training will continue.
The so-called “live tissue training” involved anesthetized goats.
Novak said she didn’t know what led to the suspension. In 2012, activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, released a video of a goat’s legs being removed with tree trimmers during what it said was Coast Guard training.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a California Democrat, wrote in The Hill newspaper on April 27 that she had raised concerns with the Coast Guard.
Every generation has their war. And every war has its story.
Battle Cry of Freedom.
All Quiet on the Western Front.
Band of Brothers.
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War.
We Were Soldiers Once… and Young.
Black Hawk Down.
Now, thanks to Steve Miska, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.), the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan finally have their “required reading,” in Miska’s new book, Baghdad Underground Railroad: Saving American Allies in Iraq.
Since September 11, 2001, a multi-generational war has raged in the Middle East. Countless memoirs have been written, thousands of accounts have been told. But never before have we heard this story: the one of our Iraqi interpreters.
Baghdad Underground Railroad is riveting. During his second of three combat tours in Iraq, Miska led a team that established an underground railroad from Baghdad to Amman to the United States for dozens of foreign military interpreters who supported U.S. troops in-country. Since then, he has written extensively about the need to protect soft networks, and has acted as an advisor to several non-profits that aim to support and protect foreign military interpreters, including No One Left Behind and the International Refugee Assistance Project.
Baghdad Underground Railroad takes a soul-wrenching look at the solemn promise our government makes – to our men and women who serve, to their families, to our fallen: No one left behind. This isn’t just a saying; it’s an ethos, a commitment, a vow. No one left behind.
Unless you’re an Iraqi.
With bureaucracy at the helm, our allies – our interpreters – our lifelines over there are not just being left behind, they’re being executed at an alarming rate. With the impending troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, Miska’s story is more important than ever. His firsthand account of establishing the Underground Railroad is equal parts inspiring and courageous, fraught with devastation and frustration. But more than a war story, it’s a gripping, beautiful, human story. You’ll feel such anger at reading about the interpreter gunned down outside his home, simply for helping us. You’ll wipe tears at tender, endearing moments like the interpreter who finally made it to Kansas and got a job. Filled with gratitude, he wanted to treat his host to dinner, and insisted he take her and her son to somewhere nice – so he picked McDonald’s. These aren’t just strangers who helped us – these men and women are family.
Thousands of interpreters are still awaiting their Special Immigrant Visa, and layers upon layers of red tape have made getting the SIV nearly impossible. The issue is gaining national attention; just yesterday legislation was passed in the House by a 366-46 vote.
Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) introduced the Honoring Our Promises through Expedition [HOPE] for Afghan SIVs Act of 2021 in April. According to Crow’s website, this bipartisan legislation would waive the requirement for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants to undergo a medical examination while in Afghanistan.
The Afghan SIV Program was created in 2009 to provide safety for Afghan interpreters, contractors, and security personnel who worked with the U.S. government in Afghanistan, Crow said in a press release. The application process has been plagued by delays since the program was established and faces severe backlogs, with wait times routinely stretching for years.
Since the Biden Administration announced their plans to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, Crow has called on the Administration to expedite this visa process, as SIV applicants and their families are increasingly under threat by the Taliban.
Among the bureaucratic hurdles facing SIV applicants, many have cited the medical examination requirement, which can cost thousands of dollars, as a serious delay in the process. There is currently only one facility in Kabul that conducts all immigrant visa examinations for the entire country, forcing applicants from the outer provinces to travel to Kabul in often dangerous circumstances.
“When I served in Iraq and Afghanistan, I worked closely with local interpreters and contractors who were critical to our safety and success. Without their help, I may not be here today,” said Congressman Jason Crow. “The U.S. must honor our promises and protect our Afghan partners whose lives are now at risk by the Taliban. We can help expedite the SIV process by waiving the medical examination requirement in Afghanistan, which is cost prohibitive and difficult for many applicants to safely receive. The HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act is bipartisan, common-sense legislation that can help save lives.”
“When I deployed to Iraq, my unit was aided by local interpreters who knew their actions came at great cost to themselves and their families. Like them, our Afghan allies have been indispensable in our fight against terrorism. With the Administration’s deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan fast approaching, we cannot forget their sacrifices on our behalf. In many cases, it’s untenable for them to remain in their home country due to active death threats for helping America, and our interpreters and other local allies are in mortal danger,” said Congressman Brad Wenstrup. “I’m proud to join this legislation, which provides temporary flexibility to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program to make sure we don’t leave our friends behind.”
In addition to legislation passing, yesterday, Miska shared the stage with Washington Post Opinion Columnist David Ignatius and General David Petraeus (Ret.) to discuss U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed militia and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. When asked about what the U.S. owes Afghan interpreters who helped Americans, Gen. Petraeus shared,
“We have a moral obligation to individuals who shared risk and hardship alongside our soldiers on the battlefield…With our forces leaving, and with the embassy already having drawn down its forces, and now in a covid lockdown, needless to say, there has not been much progress on the processing of the special immigrant visas in recent months….At that time (when he and former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker sent a letter to Sec. Blinken asking the Biden administration to accelerate issuing visas for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters and others who assisted US service members), I didn’t necessarily support a big airlift, but it is looking as if to meet the policy decision the president has announced now, which is that we will not leave them behind, it’s not going to be business as usual. I don’t think normal process will accelerate sufficiently in the course of the next month or two so that we can get them to the United States with the visa that they have earned.”
Miska shared, “The plight of Iraqi and Afghan interpreters left behind by the United States remains one of the most significant human rights issues of the Global War on Terrorism, America’s longest, and ongoing, military conflicts.”
“Baghdad Underground Railroad is a sober reminder of the far-reaching human and national security consequences of abandoning U.S. allies in countries of conflict,” Miska explained. “Above all, it is an exploration of universal questions about hope, brotherhood, and belonging—questions that strike at the heart of who we are as a people and as a nation.”
The Israel Defense Forces were caught completely off guard in 1973 when Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated attack to take back the land lost in the 1967 Six-Day War. All would have gone according to plan for the Arab states – if only one young lieutenant hadn’t gone home on leave.
Zvika Greengold was an Israeli farmer raised on a kibbutz founded by Holocaust survivors and partisans who fought against Nazi occupation in Europe. Like most Israelis, he joined the IDF when it came time to serve his country.
He was 21 and home on leave in 1973 when Syrian tanks rolled across the border in a coordinated attack with Egypt, sparking the Yom Kippur War. The young lieutenant saw plumes of smoke in the distance and fighter planes in the sky. He knew a war had begun but was not yet attached to a unit, so he had nowhere to report for combat duty.
Being without a unit wasn’t going to stop this officer from getting into the war. He hitchhiked 78 miles to Nafah Base, the command center for the Golan Heights. Greengold helped with the wounded coming in, but the only offensive weapons available were two damaged Centurion tanks.
And those turned out to be his ticket to defending Israel.
Greengold contacted his command, telling them he had a force ready to fight (which was technically true). He helped repair the two tanks, assembled a skeleton crew, and they drove off into the night toward the Syrian front. His newly-assembled “Zvika Force” soon spotted Syrian tanks advancing unopposed toward the Nafah Base. Heavily outnumbered, he engaged the enemy’s Russian-built T-55s, destroying six of them.
His tank heavily damaged in the fight, Greengold hopped into the other Centurion. Along the same road, he saw the advancing Syrian 452d Tank Battalion. Using darkness for cover, he sped along the column’s flank, dodging enemy shells while fooling the Syrians into believing there was more than one tank out opposing them. He hit the first Syrian tank from only 20 meters away.
He notched off ten more enemy tanks before the Syrians withdrew. Even Greengold’s own command had no idea how many men and tanks made up the Zvika Force. Greengold couldn’t report his true strength over the radio for fear of being found out, so he only reported that “the situation isn’t good.” His brigade commander thought he was at least company strength.
For the next 20 hours Lt. Greengold fought, sometimes alone, in skirmishes all across the front lines. When he joined Lt. Col. Uzi Mor’s ten tanks, his luck took a turn for the worse.
Mor lost most of his tanks and was wounded. Greengold lost his tank and his uniform caught fire. He had to switch tanks a half dozen times. That’s when the Syrians sent a sizable force of T-62 tanks to force the Israelis back. Greengold joined 13 other tanks to engage the Syrian armored column of 100 tanks and 40 armored personnel carriers. He managed to hold them until he heard that Nafah Base was under attack.
When the command post came under attack, he joined the defense, moving his tank to critical spots at decisive moments, even in the face of overwhelming odds. During the defense of the base, one Israeli tank commander radioed his HQ that “there’s no one in the camp except a single tank fighting like mad along the fences.”
The Jerusalem Post reported “During a lull [in the battle] Zvika Greengold painfully lowered himself from his tank, covered with burns, wounds and soot. ‘I can’t go on anymore,’ he said to the staff office who had sent him into battle 30 hours before. The officer embraced him and found a vehicle to carry Greengold to the hospital.”
He passed out from exhaustion, physically unable to continue fighting. Nafah Base was never captured and the actions Zvika Greengold and the other IDF troops in the Golan Heights gave the IDF enough time to react to the two front invasion and send substantial reinforcements. They pushed the Syrians back to where the border is today.
Greengold estimates taking out at least 20 tanks, while others credit him with 40 or more. He was awarded the Medal of Valor, Israel’s highest award for heroism.
McEwen teamed with Zinke — a former SEAL Team Six Commander and the only US Navy SEAL in Congress — to write a book about the now-politician’s life.
Zinke is also Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Interior.
Zinke’s military career began in 1985 when he graduated from Officer Candidate School and attended SEAL training (BUDS class 136). He was first assigned to SEAL Team One in Coronado, California, then was later selected for SEAL Team Six where he was a Team Leader and a commander.
As McEwen tells it, after a decade of service, Zinke was assigned as Deputy and Acting Commander of Combined Joint Special Operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom where he led a force of over 3,500 Special Operations personnel. In 2006 he was awarded two Bronze Stars.
An author experienced in telling the stories of high-level special operators, McEwen goes on to explain how Zinke retired from active duty 2008 after serving 23 years as a Navy SEAL. Zinke later ran for Congress and was sworn into the House of Representatives on January 6, 2015, and became the first Navy SEAL in the House.
The strike on Shayrat Air Base was intended to take out a number of targets, but one plane in particular was top of the list: The Su-22 Fitter.
According to Scramble.nl, two squadrons of this plane were based at the Shayrat air base that absorbed 59 T-LAMs. But why was this plane the primary target, as opposed to the squadron of MiG-23 Floggers? The answer is that the versions of the MiG-23 that were reportedly based there were primarily in the air-to-air role. The MiG-23MLD is known as the “Flogger K” by NATO. The two squadrons of Su-22 Fitters, though, specialized in the ground attack mission.
According to militaryfactory.com, the Su-22 is one of two export versions of the Su-17, which first entered service in 1969. Since then, it has received progressive improvements, and was widely exported to not only Warsaw Pact countries but to Soviet allies in the Middle East and to Peru. The Russians and French teamed up to modernize many of the Fitters still in service – and over 2,600 of these planes were built.
According to the Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament, the Su-17/Su-20/Su-22 Fitter has eight hardpoints capable of carrying up to 11,000 pounds of munitions. It also has a pair of MR-30 30mm cannon. It is capable of a top speed of 624 knots, according to militaryfactory.com.
The Fitter has seen a fair bit of combat action, including during the Iran-Iraq War, the Yom Kippur War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and the Russian wars in Chechnya.
Recently, it saw action in the Libyan Civil War as well as the Syrian Civil War.
While it has performed well in ground-attack missions, it was famously misused by then-Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi to challenge U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcats over the Gulf of Sidra in 1981. Both Fitters were shot down after an ineffectual attack on the Tomcats.
During Desert Storm, the Iraqi Air Force lost two Su-22s, then two more during Operation Provide Comfort.
The Fitter did get one moment in the cinematic sun, though. In the Vin Diesel action movie “XXX,” two Czech air force Fitters made a cameo during the climactic sequence.
In 1943, Mabel Rawlinson, a Women Airforce Service Pilot, died in an aircraft crash. The government would not pay for her remains to be sent back to her family, nor allow her to have a flag draped over her casket.
Her fellow WASPs passed around a hat, pitching in to have her casket shipped back to her family – flag-draped in defiance, and escorted home by her service sisters.
She was one of 38 WASPs to die in service to her country.
More than 70 years later, as the last of “the greatest generation” dwindles and the WASPs’ male counterparts are laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with befitting honors, a WASP is at last also being honored for her service. During a military funeral service Sept. 7, Elaine Danforth Harmon’s ashes were interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
Along with Rawlinson, Harmon was one of 1,074 women to serve as a pilot during World War II, fulfilling what the Air Force Historical Research Agency called a “dire need” to train male pilots and ferry aircraft overseas.
She is the first WASP to be buried in Arlington since the passing of HR-4336, a bill introduced by Arizona Representative Martha McSally to ensure WASPs eligibility for interment at Arlington National Cemetery. When Harmon passed away April 21, 2015, her family applied for her interment at Arlington per her final wishes. The request was denied based on a legal decision that “active-duty designees,” such as the WASPs, did not meet eligibility requirements for the cemetery, which is quickly running out of burial space.
Since then, her ashes had remained in the black box provided by the funeral home, sitting amidst folded sweaters, old photos and hanging clothes in her granddaughter’s closet.
“Gammy doesn’t belong on a shelf,” said Tiffany Miller, Harmon’s granddaughter.
Since her death, her family fought to secure a place for the WASPs in Arlington, aided by members of the self-proclaimed “Chick Fighter Pilot Association,” female pilots who owe their success to the trailblazing efforts of the WASPs.
After the passing of the bill, several of the female aviators proudly flew the burial flag during their missions. They documented the flag’s travels in a journal read during the memorial service.
The flag “went on a journey worthy of a WASP,” according to Lt. Col. Caroline Jensen, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot who aided the family’s campaign.
“Because of the legacy of the WASPs and the service of women like Elaine, I stand before you,” she said. “I’m a reservist on active duty, 22 years in the Air Force, 3,500 hours flying fighters, 1,700 in an F-16, 200 in combat, three years as a right-wing pilot for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and eight of those while being a mom. So we owe a lot to Elaine and the women like her.”
Jensen was joined by McSally and retired Maj. Heather Penney, each of whom credited their success as female pilots to the WASPs. They gave their remarks alongside beaming photos of Elaine – decked out in her flight suit at the ages of 22 and 85, demonstrating her continued love of flying.
“You could tell that the time they were WASPs was one of the best times of their lives and they were very proud to have served their country,” Elaine’s daughter, Terry Harmon said.
Retired Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold once spoke to a class of graduating WASP and said that initially he hadn’t been sure “whether a slip of a girl could fight the controls of a B-17 in heavy weather. Now in 1944, it is on record that women can fly as well as men.”
“It was a man’s world, but we did something really great that was needed for the war effort,” Elaine had said during an interview for Library of Congress historical archives.
Elaine wanted people to remember that effort, and in her handwritten will, beseeched her family to place her ashes in Arlington National Cemetery.
“To her, Arlington is more than a cemetery, it’s a memorial for all the people that have served their country,” said her granddaughter, Erin Miller.
Seventy-two years after her fellow WASP died in service of country and was denied military honors, Elaine Harmon died among her family. More than a year later, her children and grandchildren, her fellow WASPs and her service daughters escorted her home.
“For generations to come, when they come to these hallowed grounds that honor our heroes and educate people about their service and sacrifice … these women will be in that history book on their own merit, on their own right,” McSally said.
Another trailblazer was laid to rest among her brothers and sisters-in-arms. Her urn was placed in a niche of the columbarium wall between her fellow veterans, she left her final mark on the white marble: “Elaine Danforth Harmon, WASP.”
So, you’re a high-speed, low-drag new trooper who wants to have a successful and rewarding military career. The only problem is that you’re lazy.
Not “I can’t get out of bed without a personal pep talk from Richard Simmons” lazy, but more, “I’m not going to make my bed because I’m just going to ruin it tonight” lazy.
In the civilian world, that’s fine. But in the military, you can actually get demoted for not making your bed. So how do you get ahead in Uncle Sam’s Rifle Club with minimum effort? Easy. You learn to sham (or if you joined the sea services, “skate”).
Shamming and skating are the fine arts of doing little to no work while avoiding friction and punishments from command.
The trick is to pace yourself throughout the day, doing work only when necessary but also giving the perception of constant activity.
A top-shelf sham day starts with not doing physical training. The most obvious way to get out of this is a pass from the medics. WATM does not encourage this…but here’s our guide. If you can get a full-day pass to stay in the barracks, your shamming is now in easy mode.
But sick call slips and chits are rationed, and remaining on quarters for too long can get you kicked out for “malingering.” If you want to get promoted, you’ll have to get more creative.
First, always know who is instructing PT in the morning and what the planned activity is. If Spc. McMuffin is leading the platoon on a slow jog down the main strip, just bite the bullet and do PT. But if Sgt. Creatine is leading a ruck-run and circuit-training Crossfit extravaganza, then you need to volunteer for a work detail.
But wait, wait, wait! I thought you said I wasn’t going to have to actually work?
Sure, volunteering for work may seem counterproductive. But pulling a 12-hour guard shift on some ammo in a field while you’re playing the newest Candy Crush level and taking turns napping with the other guard is way better than playing log throw with Capt. America and then spending all day at a desk.
Speaking of desk work, there are ways to sham through that if you get stuck in it. If you permanently work in an office, the best thing you can do is create the impression that you’re always working way too hard to be interrupted.
This can be achieved with multiple little green notebooks, legal pads, and an endless number of browser windows. Spread the legal pads and notebooks around the desk and fill the open pages with illegible writing. Draw lots of arrows between areas of text.
If anyone asks what you’re doing, start talking a lot about guidance from headquarters and how it affects 3rd quarter mandatory training. There’s not an NCO in the world that will stick around.
When you’re only working the office for the day, the best thing you can do is offer to shred things and take the trash out. No one is timing these tasks, so there’s plenty of time to joke around with buddies or check your phone. You should take the trash out at least three or four times in a regular duty day.
And, once you volunteer to take the trash out enough times or to run other errands, people will start thinking that you must be doing said errands when they can’t see you.
Now you’re in business. Once they stop checking up on you, start adding a 20-minute nap to each errand and trash run that you do.
Another place you can work constant naps into the day is the motor pool. Avoid emptying and reloading connexes by volunteering to PMCI vehicles. At each vehicle, open the front doors and raise the hood, then rack out in the back seat for a few minutes. Finally, declare the vehicle ready to go, close everything up, and move on to the next one.
At the end of the day, there’s always the risk that a pleased platoon or first sergeant will want to inspect the room of such a squared-away individual.
Fear not — passing room inspections is easy. The trick is to get the barracks super clean one time. We’re talking perfection here. No dust anywhere, scrub the backs of the appliances, secure the bedspread with bungee cords and glue the hospital corners into place. Tie up your roommate and hide him in the woodline.
Place neatly organized study cards next to your computer, which should have exactly one browser window open to whatever your branch’s promotions and accessions guidance is.
The platoon and first sergeant will not believe their eyes. They’ll praise you in front of the formation and talk amongst themselves for days about how polished you are.
Then they’ll become complacent and they won’t inspect you anymore. They might come by for payday inspections and the company change of command, but that’s about it.
The rest of the year you can walk around in your room dripping marinara sauce onto the floor, and no one will know or care.
That barracks will become your palace of filth, and no one will be the wiser. In fact, they’ll be so impressed by that one inspection and all those guard details you volunteered for that they’ll promote you ahead of your peers until you get paid to move out of the barracks — you won’t even have to get a contract marriage to the first person you meet off-base.
Congrats, shammer. You have arrived.
(Also, maybe retrieve your roommate from the woodline at some point. He could legitimately die).
The year 1932 was interesting for military decorations. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Douglas MacArthur successfully revived Gen. George Washington’s Badge for Military Merit of 1782, which became known as the Purple Heart, a medal given to those wounded or killed in combat.
That same year, the Citation Star was converted into the Silver Star. The Citation Star was a 3/16-inch silver star worn on the ribbon of the service medal for the campaign the service member distinguished themselves in. Exclusively an Army award until 1942, the Silver Star is the third-highest medal of valor behind the branch equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross and the Medal of Honor. Members of all branches are now eligible to receive it.
Dating back to when it was called the Citation Star, nine women have been awarded the Silver Star for acts of valor and heroism during war.
JANE RIGNEL, LINNIE LECKRONE, AND IRENE ROBAR
These three nurses of World War I became the first female recipients of the Citation Star, the predecessor to the Silver Star, for their efforts along the front lines in France.
Jane Rignel was the chief nurse of Mobile Hospital No. 2 attached to the 42nd Division, stationed in Bussey le Chateau. She had 22 nurses under her command on July 14, 1918. That night, the nurses followed closely behind the unit they were supporting as the first impact of an artillery barrage landed at 11:40 p.m. The first ambulances started to arrive at 2 a.m. Rignel led eight operating teams to treat 75 patients in the shock ward, and although artillery seriously damaged two triage and surgical areas, killing five, Rignel’s leadership and bravery prevailed through the chaos and saved many lives that day.
Linnie Leckrone and Irene Robar were both in the Army Nurse Corps and volunteered for Shock Team No. 134, which arrived on July 28, 1918, at the 32nd Division’s 127th Field Hospital near Chateau-Thierry. The role of nurses operating in a shock team was to resuscitate wounded soldiers who had lost too much blood and were unlikely to survive immediate surgery. Leckrone and Robar remained at their stations even after they were targeted by artillery and were subsequently awarded for their gallant efforts under fire.
THE ANGELS OF ANZIO
More than 59,000 women served in the US Army Nurse Corps during World War II. Within their ranks, 16 nurses were killed as a result of enemy conflict, 67 nurses were taken prisoners of war, and more than 1,600 nurses were decorated for bravery or meritorious service. Only four were awarded the Silver Star: 2nd Lt. Ellen Ainsworth, 1st Lt. Mary Roberts, 2nd Lt. Elaine Roe, and 2nd Lt. Rita Rourke.
The little city of Anzio, located just 33 miles south of Rome, today is a blossoming resort town known for its seaside harbor setting. In January 1944, the Allies launched Operation Shingle, an amphibious invasion to drive the Germans out of Rome. Along the Anzio beachhead were large field hospital tents belonging to the 56th Evacuation Hospital Unit and other medical units. Despite being marked with red crosses, the tents were frequent targets of strafing planes and artillery barrages. The violence was so intense, the troops began calling it “Hell’s half-acre,” favoring the safety of a foxhole instead.
On Feb. 7, 1944, the hospital tents were dive-bombed by a German Luftwaffe pilot. The bombs killed 28 and critically wounded 28 more. Ironically, after the Luftwaffe pilot bailed from his plane, which was shot down by a British Spitfire, the pilot was brought to the hospital tent and treated as if he were any other patient.
The most devastating attack, however, came only three days later. For 30 minutes, a German long-range artillery barrage targeted the Anzio beachhead. “I wanted to jump under the operating table, but first we had to lower litter cases to the floor,” Roberts told the Dallas Morning News on Feb. 23, 1944. “Pieces of steel already were ripping through tents. There were four litters. I saw a patient on the operating table had his helmet near him so I put it over his head to give him that much protection.”
Roberts was the chief nurse of the operating tent and instead of diving for the little cover that was available to her, she chose to protect others. While Roberts kept the operating table in operation, Roe and Rourke cut the electrical wires and used flashlights to evacuate 42 patients. Ainsworth was also there when the barrage began. A large piece of shrapnel struck her in the chest, but she continued on to assist in the evacuation. Six days later she succumbed to her wounds. These nurses became known as the Angels of Anzio.
LEIGH ANN HESTER
The most famous female Silver Star recipient in US military history is Leigh Ann Hester, the only woman to receive the award for engaging the enemy in combat. The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, occurred right before Hester left her Nashville home for basic training. In July 2004, her Army National Guard unit received orders to Iraq. For months Sgt. Hester worked as a military police officer in Baghdad, protecting critical supply routes.
“Basically, we would go out in our Humvees and we would clear the route for [improvised explosive devices] or insurgents before the convoys would start coming through,” Hester told NPR in a 2011 interview.
Getting shot at in Iraq was the norm. Hester estimates it was a daily occurrence, even if women weren’t allowed to be assigned to units where their primary mission “is to engage in direct combat on the ground.”
But there was one firefight she would never forget. It was the morning of Sunday, March 20, 2005, and she was supporting a convoy east of Baghdad. As they traveled 3 miles down the road, their convoy got hit. An RPG slammed into one of their vehicles as it was turning down the road, and bullets rained in from nearby insurgents all around them.
Three members of Hester’s team were immediately wounded, and Hester directed the gunner operating an MK19 grenade launcher to fire grenades into a nearby irrigation ditch containing a dozen enemy fighters. Then she and Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein sprinted to a nearby trench line and threw two hand grenades before returning fire.
“It’s not like you see in the movies,” she said. “They don’t, like, get shot and get blown back 5 feet. They just take a round, and they collapse.”
Hester personally engaged with three enemy combatants with her M4 assault rifle, and after 45 minutes of close-quarters combat, 27 insurgents were declared killed in action, six more were wounded, and one was captured alive. Every member of Hester’s unit survived that day.
She became an instant hero, but Hester felt there was more to accomplish in her service. She returned home and became a police officer and detective for the Franklin Police Department in Tennessee. In 2014, she rejoined the National Guard and deployed to Afghanistan as a Cultural Support Team member — women who are often attached to special operations forces to interact with and gather intelligence from the women and children on target. In 2017 she was sent to the Virgin Islands as part of the international humanitarian effort in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
Thinking about the day she earned the Silver Star in 2005, Hester said, “You know, it’s just something that happened one day, and I was trained to do what I did, and I did it.”
MONICA LIN BROWN
Two years after Hester’s actions in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Pfc. Monica Lin Brown was thrust into the spotlight for her life-saving actions during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. On April 25, 2007, Brown was serving as a combat medic with the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in Afghanistan’s southeastern Paktika province. While on patrol, the trail vehicle in her convoy struck a pressure-plate improvised explosive device.
“I only saw the smoke from the vehicle when suddenly we started taking small-arms fire from all around us,” Brown said. “Everyone was already out of the burning vehicle. But even before I got there, I could tell that two of them were injured very seriously.”
Brown sprinted through a hail of Taliban gunfire with her medic bag to reach the injured American soldiers. She knelt alongside them and shielded their bodies from exploding shrapnel, counting more than a dozen mortar rounds. Adding to the chaos, the extra ammunition in the burning HMMWV — including bullets, 60 mm mortar rounds, and 40 mm grenade rounds — started to cook off due to the flames’ heat.
“There was small arms coming in from two different machine-gun positions, mortars falling … a burning Humvee with 16 mortar rounds in it, chunks of aluminum the size of softballs flying all around,” Lt. Martin Robbins told the Washington Post in 2008. “It was about as hairy as it gets.”
Although Brown saved the lives of fellow Americans that day, the Army pulled her out of the remote camp where she was serving with a cavalry unit because of Army restrictions on women serving in combat roles.
“We weren’t supposed to take her out [on missions] but we had to because there was no other medic,” said Robbins, a platoon leader with Charlie Troop, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, whose men Brown saved, according to the Washington Post. “By regulations you’re not supposed to,” but Brown “was one of the guys, mixing it up, clearing rooms, doing everything that anybody else was doing.”
Brown was presented the Silver Star in 2008, becoming the second woman since World War II to receive the honor.
The F-22 was slated to replace the F-15A/B/C/D Eagles as the premier air-superiority fighter. But the Raptor’s production was halted at 187 airframes. Let’s go through a tale of the tape on these planes, before we see what happens when five Eagles jump a Raptor.
According to Joe Baugher, the F-15 has a top speed of Mach 2.5, a cruising speed of 570 knots, can carry eight air-to-air missiles (usually four AIM-120/AIM-7 and four AIM-9), and has a 20mm M61 cannon with 940 rounds. It has a range of 3,450 miles.
Baugher notes that the F-22 has a top speed of Mach 2.2 slightly slower than the F-15. But the F-22 cruises at Mach 1.6. It carries four AIM-120 and four AIM-9 missiles. It also has a 20mm M61 cannon. It has a combat radius of up to 800 nautical miles.
Here’s the video showing how the five Eagles fared against the Raptor. Warning: This was not a fair fight.